It’s been just over a week since Route 91 in Las Vegas, and I still can’t shake the thought of losing a dear friend. The tears may not be as often, but the emptiness remains. I haven’t even started to process the personal impact to bullets flying over my head, the thought of dying or losing my wife, or the bullet that went through my wife’s hat. I want to erase it all from my mind, and even my life, but I can’t so instead I reflect.
As I reflect, I am a victim, a survivor, a husband, a father, a Christian, a pastor, and a citizen of this great country. I reflect on the unity I saw in the moments of terror and distress, but also on the division that quickly came back into view. Until we realize what our problem is, we will never find a solution to the acts of violence we (all too often) experience.
As I crouched down below the bleachers with my wife doing our best to avoid the hundreds of rounds of ammunition flying everywhere, I couldn’t help but notice the people. There were people everywhere. It was dark but I could see them nonetheless. Off-duty police officers and firefighters, ex and present military, medical professionals and random people (including one of my best friend’s) that attended Route 91 for a weekend of great music turned into first responders. They put themselves into harm’s way in hopes of helping an injured person. Most didn’t even think twice. What they definitely didn’t do was inquire of the injured person’s race, religion, political affiliation, or sexual preference before trying to help. They were human beings helping other human beings.
I also heard countless people crying out to God. They were begging for protection and preservation. I know enough about God to know that he didn’t only listen to certain people. He heard every cry of every person in that area. Whether they believed in him or not, he listened. Whether they truly knew who they were crying out to or not, he listened.
Not too long after the bullets stopped flying, and for the days that have followed, the unity has diminished. Maybe not between the people that attended Route 91 that night, but definitely from much of the rest of the country. Instead of learning about what to do in crisis from those that were in the crisis, the rest of the country went right back to pointing fingers and blaming others.
You’d think that as a pastor, I’d shift to talking about how great the church was in it’s response to the horrific Las Vegas shooting. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Yes, there were a few wonderful churches that stepped up. But too many individuals that make up the whole body of Christian’s which proclaim to follow Jesus participated in the finger-pointing and blaming just like everyone else.
What has this world come to? Do we longer have concern for our brother’s and sisters? I don’t have the perfect answer, but I do have some thoughts. And as a victim, a survivor, a husband, a father, a Christian, a pastor, and a citizen of this great country, I felt it was my time to speak.
We must recognize that we are part of the problem. Yes, you and I. Prayerfully, we aren’t the ones taking other people’s lives. But we take sides on every issue, whether that issue is race, religion, life, guns, you name it. We blame everyone else without considering our fault in the matter. We are willing to overlook or ignore the facts for sake of looking bad or being wrong. We demonize people because of their affiliations. We will never be at peace with one another until we realize that none of those things leads to peace. That division leads to war, much like the one I was in on October 1, 2017.
The Bible says that the greatest commandment of all is to love God AND love others. Jesus spoke those words together. Even if you are not a Christian, or don’t believe in the Bible, you have to admit that loving one another makes a whole lot more sense than hating (and hurting) one another. But what does this love look like?
Loving one another means being willing to sacrifice ourselves for others, much like those first responders were willing to sacrifice themselves for complete strangers (and some paid the price for doing so).
Sacrifice may mean being willing to squash our pride in needing to always be right.
Sacrifice may mean considerately listening to someone we are vehemently opposed to.
Sacrifice may mean we may need to step across “party lines” to make things better.
Sacrifice definitely means that we must be willing to give up some rights to protect the ultimate right, the right to life.
So the question is now, what will you do?